Guest post by past IAIA Board Member Miles Scott-Brown.
WHY DON’T WE HAVE 20,000 MEMBERS?
IAIA currently has around 1600 members from 120 countries. We have a further 18 Affiliates in 16 countries, which puts our total membership at just over 5000 IA professionals. Our membership is neither static nor constant; it changes year by year depending on where our annual conference is held, with large numbers of new members joining each year and then dropping off in subsequent years. IAIA is also an “aging” organization, with few young members joining and expanding the membership.
With all the current interest in the environment and considering the number of IA practitioners globally, how many of us do you think there are—100,000, 250,000, or more? So why don’t we have 20,000 IAIA members? Could we grow our membership exponentially to fulfill that demand to be part of the global leader in impact assessment?
To begin with, we are not the only show in town. IAIA may well be the global leader in impact assessment, but there are many national impact assessment organizations also on the scene. These organizations often compete for our global membership, in that some individuals would prefer to belong to a local organization that is perhaps more relevant to their professional practice. A good example is that in the US, which arguably has the largest IA professional community in the world, IAIA has 185 members compared to 176 members in Canada. Considering a demographic ratio of ten to one between the two countries, you would expect that IAIA would have 1800+ members in the US instead.
So do we try to compete with those national organizations? IAIA thinks there is a better path: creating linkages with them instead. As I mentioned, IAIA has agreements with 18 Affiliates operating around the world—our Affiliates are independent membership organizations operating at the national or local level. Our agreements with them allow IAIA’s membership benefits, such as full access to IAIAConnect and the member rate at all events, to flow to their members—this not only expands the reach of IAIA, but also enhances the networking opportunities for our core international members, as our Affiliates combined have almost double the number of members as IAIA International.
In recent years, IAIA has also been linking with Associated Organizations—independent organizations that have similar goals to IAIA that we can link to in mutually beneficial ways (cross-promotion, event ideas, and more). One recent addition to IAIA’s list of six Associated Organizations is an alliance with the California Association of Environmental Professionals, bringing us into contact with its more than 1700 members across the state. It is an exciting collaboration, aiming to promote and enhance the quality of EIA via information exchange and the cross-promotion of various training opportunities and events.
IAIA’s Affiliates and Associated Organizations (along with its three Branches, which are groups of existing IAIA members within a geographic region) are a valued part of the organization and are thus highlighted in the current Strategic Plan, via goals of linking to additional organizations while simultaneously clarifying and strengthening the existing relationships.
Another membership dilemma surrounds our young members. Generational wants and needs are changing when it comes to association participation, and IAIA is currently working on a new membership plan to engage this student and young professional crowd in new and exciting ways. New student initiatives have been forming at annual conferences (check out the Students and Young Professionals Workshop, as well as the various scholarship opportunities, scheduled for IAIA17). This group is often challenged by cost (as you might know, attending an annual conference can cost several thousand dollars with travel expenses), so IAIA’s trend of offering more regional symposia in addition to the annual conferences is a great opportunity to keep these young people connected in a more affordable way. New technologies are also being embraced—IAIA has a new webinar program in the works for 2017 and is also beginning work on a trial for an online professional training series. And who knows—maybe the future could even bring events like virtual conferences or other online gatherings, which would encourage networking and enhance membership benefits without the need for international travel (and that would go a long way in reducing our carbon footprint, too!).
As the leading global network in impact assessment, there’s a real opportunity to boost our membership. Not just by growing organically year after year as most organizations do, but by continuing to expand and develop strategic alliances, by engaging our up-and-coming students and young professionals, and by looking at new technologies that could change the way we work as an organization.
All that said, the responsibility of growing our membership also lies with you. Talk with your colleagues and reach out through your own networks to talk with other IA professionals about what IAIA membership has meant for you. As we say, “Our members are our most important asset,” and I look to each of you for more ideas on how we can continue to grow and improve.
Miles Scott-Brown is the President of Integrated Environments (2006) Ltd in Calgary, Canada, and was a member of the IAIA Board of Directors from 2013-2016.
Do you have thoughts after reading this post? IAIA members, login to join the discussion at IAIAConnect in the Members group.